by Paul Matthews

Modelling great motivators

Some people have a knack for motivating others. This may be a skill they have learned or they may be one of those people to whom it comes naturally. Usually, it will be a combination of the two.

Look around your organisation to find people like this. They may be senior to you or junior. In effect, you are looking for leaders – and the way you spot leaders is that they have followers.


When faced with a challenging situation ask yourself, ‘What would [role model] do?’

Also think about books you have read or movies and TV series where there are great leaders.

Ask yourself, ‘What are they doing that is different?’ This sense of curiosity is the primary tool you need to model someone.


Modelling is figuring out how someone does something, and then learning how to do that same thing yourself. It works on the principle that if someone can do it, anyone can do it. Here are the basics.

  1. Decide what ability you want to model, and be specific about both the ability and the context or situation you want to use it in. For example, you might want to become good at giving motivational feedback.
  2. Find one or more people who do this really well. You would not want to model a mediocre performer.
  3. Watch the person do the task. Pay attention to what they do, what they say and how they interact with others and their environment.
  4. If you have access to the person, ask questions to fully understand the model, such as ‘Why did you do that? What were you thinking when you did that? What do you believe about... ?’ If you don’t have access, imagine how they would answer such questions. You will be surprised at what your unconscious mind will come up with.
  5. People who do something well operate at an unconscious level of competence, so you will need to help them dig deep to enable them to be conscious of how they do what they do.
  6. Act as if you are that person and test the model out for yourself. Learn what parts of what they do are essential to successfully using the model, and what parts are simply idiosyncrasies.
  7. Refine the model and carry on asking questions until it works effectively.

As well as modelling great motivators, you can model people who are motivated to do the task you hate or dread. Why do they look forward to it? How do they approach it? What gives it value for them? Follow the steps above to transform your levels of motivation around the task.